The first invitation has been accepted to the Big Dance. Thirty more will be given out by the time Selection Monday rolls around. Some names will be familiar to even the most casual fan of the women's game. Others will send fans running to Google and Wikipedia to figure out who in the holy heck this team is and how in the world they ended up in the field.
Swish Appeal prides itself on its coverage of the game, so yours truly, perhaps with a little help from my friends, will endeavor to save you the trouble of looking some of this stuff up by writing capsules of each of the auto-bid winners. First up: East Tennessee State.
Who? The Buccaneers of East Tennessee State.
Where? They hail from Johnson City, Tennessee, part of Tennessee's Tri-Cities area. Go much further east, you'll be in Virginia or North Carolina.
When? Around 2PM on Saturday, March 6th in Macon, GA.
How? A last-second jumper gave them the win over upset-minded North Florida, 63-62.
Upset? Nope. They were the regular season champions, finishing a full game ahead of Florida Gulf Coast and four games ahead of USC Upstate.
Senior guard/forward Siarre Evans, the Atlantic Sun's Player of the Year, makes things happen for the Buccaneers, averaging a double-double with 16.1 points and 11 rebounds a game. She and guard Tara Davis both average a shade under two steals a game. Sharp-shooting senior guard/forward TaRonda Wiles is the team's leading scorer at 17.7 points per game, shooting 43.2% from beyond the arc. Four players average double figures in scoring for ETSU, and eight players average double-digit minutes. Both Evans and Wiles were named to the conference's first team.
The team's best out of conference win is probably their opening game against Chattanooga. With three SEC teams, as well as Arizona State and North Carolina, on their OOC slate, the team scheduled aggressively, though the closest of those five BCS losses was by thirteen to the Sun Devils in a neutral-site tournament in Hawai'i. Their worst loss out of conference would be the 92-87 loss to Appalachian State.
Hail from the Tri-Cities? Call the Atlantic Sun your home conference? See East Tennessee State this season? Drop a comment and add your input, because there's nothing like good old human observation.